Clinton joins e-tailing boom, urges caution

Washington - The millions of Americans shopping on the Internet this holiday season will include President Clinton, who cautioned consumers on Saturday to take "basic precautions" when making purchases online.Clinton used his weekly radio address to tout the benefits of electronic commerce, which he said about 4 million American families would use for the first time this year to buy at least some of their holiday gifts.

Washington - The millions of Americans shopping on the Internet this holiday season will include President Clinton, who cautioned consumers on Saturday to take "basic precautions" when making purchases online.

Clinton used his weekly radio address to tout the benefits of electronic commerce, which he said about 4 million American families would use for the first time this year to buy at least some of their holiday gifts.

"I intend to join them because online shopping has significant benefits, not just for consumers and large established retailers," he said. "Online commerce also opens a world of opportunity for local artisans and small entrepreneurs."

The White House cited projections that Internet shopping would total as much as $9.5 billion this holiday season and could exceed $1.4 trillion by 2003.

"One of the key reasons our economy continues to thrive with the longest peacetime expansion in history is that we're making the most of new technologies," said Clinton, adding that information technologies account for one-third of economic growth.

FTC recommendations seconded
Clinton urged Internet consumers to review a newly prepared Federal Trade Commission checklist of precautionary practices that are available on the www.consumer.gov Web site, but highlighted three of the recommendations:

-- Pay close attention to details, such as shipping and delivery dates, extra fees, warranties, return policies and phone numbers.

-- Always buy with a credit card, which is protected by federal laws against unauthorized charges.

-- Guard privacy by not sharing passwords and by reading merchants' privacy policies.

"If we want Internet commerce to continue to grow, we all must work together to make sure that shopping online is just as safe as shopping in a mall," the president said.

Clinton also urged consumers to use the Web to make charitable contributions and praised several leading companies for helping to educate consumers to shop online safely.


'If we want Internet commerce to continue to grow, we all must work together to make sure that shopping online is just as safe as shopping in a mall.'
-- President Bill Clinton

Republicans used their weekly radio address to support the Clinton administration for vowing to make free trade in electronic commerce a leading priority at next week's World Trade Organization talks in Seattle.

Speaking for the party, California Rep. David Dreier said America must promote its technological leadership at the WTO meetings and prevent countries or groups from blocking the future of business.

"Republicans are behind the president's effort to make free trade in e-commerce a top priority for new trade talks. America wins when government officials from Buenos Aires to Beijing don't use taxes and regulation to block business over the Internet," Dreier said.

The administration has said it will urge the WTO to ban tariffs on electronic commerce.

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